Asian and European auto brands get lower grades in customer satisfaction this year, but domestic automakers aren’t earning lots of gold stars, either.

Overall customer satisfaction associated with vehicle quality, performance and the ownership experience drops for a second straight year, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Imports still lead domestics, but the gap narrows because of Asian and European brand declines.  

The ACSI reports an industry slip of 1.2% from last year. That puts the 2014 average at 82 on a 100-point scale. Sixteen of 21 measured nameplates went down.

The only brands to improve are domestic: Chevrolet (+4%) and Buick (+1%).

Mercedes-Benz is down 2%, but still ranks as the industry leader with a score of 86. Next comes Subaru at 85 (-1%). Lexus slips 3% to tie Volkswagen, unchanged at 84.

Toyota and Honda each fall 3% to 83. Buick also scores 83. It’s the only domestic nameplate to exceed the industry average (by one point).

At the back of the class are two domestic and two import brands. Chrysler’s Jeep and Dodge both dip 1% to 79 and 78, respectively. On the index for the first time, Audi posts a 79. In last place, Acura drops 7% to 77.

The report is based on a survey of 4,360 customers who have purchased or leased a new car within the last six months to three years.

A couple of findings are eye-catching, says Claes Fornell, ACSI chairman and founder.

“The first is that although the domestic car industry has deteriorated in customer satisfaction over the past couple of years, the gap to imports has narrowed due to a weakening of the latter’s customer satisfaction,” he says.

“The other notable finding is that several of the luxury brands do poorly. That didn’t use to be the case, and suggests consumers now expect more for their money when they pay a premium price.”

When it comes to driver satisfaction, six of the top seven cars are imports.

When it comes to age-group differences, younger people are tougher markers than more-forgiving elders.

“Scores are pretty consistent until you get to the 60-plus group and then scores jump way up,” ACSI Managing Director David VanAmburg tells WardsAuto. “But this tends to be universal and not just for the auto industry. Older people, generally speaking, are more satisfied with the breadth of their purchases.”   

ACSI also quantifies how a rash of recent vehicle recalls affects customer satisfaction. Car owners who had at least one recall in the past year rate their vehicle 6% lower than those unaffected by a recall.

The full report is available for free download at